In the winter night of 3 August 1964 the Carletonville community was struck
by disaster, when the Oosthuizen family, as well as their maid, was buried
alive, with their house and all, in a massive sinkhole. It can be counted
as the sinkhole incident, which made Carletonville a known town in and
outside of South Africa, but one, which at the same time caused fear.
Mr. Johannes Marthinus Oosthuizen (36), attached to the Blyvooruitzight
Gold Mine, his wife Hester and their three children, Jacoba (12), Johannes
(8) and Marianne (6), came back from a lovely holiday at Amanzimtoti,
during the weekend of 1 August 1964. Their house in the Westdene-suburb of
the Blyvooruitzight goldmine had a dilapidated appearance and this was part
of the reason the family was not enthusiastic to return home to a “normal”
life. For Mr. Oosthuizen it was however not possible to adhere to the
please of his wife and children to stay for a few extra holiday days. Mr.
Oosthuizen quoted various responsibilities before his leave would come to
as his defence against the pleading eyes of his family.
By the Sunday morning, family members, the Strydom’s and the neighbours
(the Macmasters, Brits, and Kriel’s), came to greet various members of the
Oosthuizen family and to enquire about their holiday at Amanzimtoti. Mrs.
Oosthuizen on more than one occasion indicated that she finds it difficult
to adapt in the dilapidated house, which filled her with fear. Nobody was
however able do something about the young woman’s fear on a Sunday.
At approximately two o’clock the Sunday night a neighbour of the
Oosthuizen’s, Mr. Brits, was busy looking for a pill against for his
restlessness when he heard a noise outside, which sounded to him like
wagon-wheels on a rough road. Through his bedroom window he saw that the
light of the Oosthuisen couple was on, but nothing was visible which could
shed light on the wagon-wheel noise he heard. Seconds later the noise could
be heard again this time significantly harder than the previous wagon-wheel
noise he heard. Mr. Brits had to see how the house of his neighbour’s
house collapsed like paper and how the house disappeared in a 15-20 meter
sinkhole. Mrs. Oosthuizen’s shouts could be clearly heard above the noise.
Hereafter the suburb was alive with activity. Mr. and Mrs. Brits with their
children quickly evacuated their house which stood on the edge of the 150
meter open hole and which was fast cracking up. The Kriel’s was in this
stadium panicking since a part of their house broke away from the rest. The
Kriel’s just managed to escape through a bedroom window, when part of their
house fell into the sinkhole. Also the Macmaster’s and the mother of Mrs.
Macmaster had to escape through a window when ground movement lead to all
exits of their house being blocked. Few possessions could be saved.
In the following days it was not possible for rescue workers to remove the
corpses from the rubble. The situation lead to panic, shock, sympathy of
the whole shocked community and in the family circles of the Oosthuizen’s.
The Blyvooruitzight Gold mining Company had to find urgent accommodation
for approximately 170 households. Caravans which was brought in from
everywhere was placed near the recreation club of the mine, where a number
of households were accommodated for a period of time, and these temporary
accommodation was even known as separate Church areas in the various
Churches. For many others the massive sinkhole was only an attraction which
they had to see due to curiosity.
Four ministers from the NG Church delivered the memorial service for the
Oosthuizen family and their maid on 5 August 1964 at Carletonville. It was
well attended. A Monument was erected on the hill overlooking the area
where the Westdene suburb stood. The fitting inscription on the monument
reads, “God himself laid them to rest”.
It should however be noted that this incident did not result in the highest
lost of human life due to a sinkhole incident. At the West-Driefontein
reduction plant, two years prior to the Oosthuizen incident a total of 29
people lost their lives due to a sinkhole incident. The reduction building
of seven storeys disappeared into the massive sinkhole. It could be asked
why an incident of this magnitude received less attention than the
Oosthuizen incident. The reason for this could be the fact that the
reduction plant incident was treated as a mining incident, with people at
work losing their lives. In contrast the Oosthuizen incident involved a
family, including children losing their lives while at sleep.”